Saturday, January 22, 2011

Seeing the gorilla in the room

When we don’t see the gorilla in the room

or, "Sorry Mate I didn't see you"

Motorcycle accidents are on the rise. No matter how you cut and dice the data, there are more motorcycles on the roads and more distractions out there.

Much has been made regarding this data, mostly pointing to the fact that more accidents were occuring with riders from the age of 40 and up. Well DUH, that is the largest growing market for 2 wheel sales. It just means that more people in their 40s are riding 2 wheels on the road. Age itself is not indicative.

From the comment section of the above article

From J.W. - “Thanks for posting the useful info. I am an aerospace engineer a little bit like Mr. Hurt. I study the statistics on motorcycle accidents out of concern for my own life and my son’s life. I thought you might want to look for a study that identifies the “silent majority” of motorcyclists that DO NOT suffer a high fatality or injury rate.

They are: non-drinkers (less than three per week average), they are licensed, they have sought training in safe riding, they DRILL avoidance maneuvering, they wear a real helmet and (usually) a real jacket. If you rake through the statistics for these guys, you’ll find their accident rate per mile ridden is stunningly low, as compared to their more cavalier riding brothers.

I tell my son that riding is like crop dusting -- it has a low margin for error; with preparation, discipline, training and sound equipment being the keys to survival.

A large portion of your article probed for the root cause of increased accident rates. I minored in sociology. American culture has CHANGED. Cell phones usage is staggering. Caffeine intake is up by a factor of TEN from 1950. Fast food, television, video games and the web have made the last two generations very impulsive. Since 1950 mothers have become working super-moms, taking on more than any human should be expected to handle. This “new” American is much more likely to have accidents, whether on a bike or in a car.

It is also interesting to note that insurance companies regard auto drivers as extremely threatening. To ensure a driver runs $1,000 to $3,000 per year. The SAME DRIVER, asking for motorcycle insurance, will get quoted $100 per year, if the the bike’s pounds/HP ratio is less than that of a 400Hp corvette. The insurance analysts are very sober guys. They know who is doing the damage.”

It is true that some accidents are the fault of the rider, showing off, or riding above their speed and skill. Or I guess, being drunk.

But when most accidents occur the car driver typically says, “But I never even saw them!”

Wikapedia entry -

“The two major causes of motorcycle accidents in the United States are: motorists pulling out or turning in front of motorcyclists and violating their rights-of-way and motorcyclists running wide through turns. The former is sometimes called a SMIDSY, an acronym formed from the motorists’ common response of “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”.[57] The latter is more commonly caused by operating a motorcycle while intoxicated.[58] Motorcyclists can anticipate and avoid some of these crashes with proper training, increasing their conspicuousness to other traffic, and separating alcohol and riding.”

This is probably true, because HAD the driver actually seen the motorcyclist/scooterist, surely they would have taken steps to avoid the accident.

However, its seems our brains are hardwired or trained otherwise. Scientific studies have been created and books have been written:

In “The Invisible Gorilla” Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris explain that such failures are called “change blindness”: “People are ‘blind’ to the changes between what was in view moments before and what is in view now.”

There’s a reason for this blindness: “In the real world, objects don’t abruptly change into other objects, so checking all the visual details from moment to moment to make sure they haven’t changed would be a spectacular waste of brainpower.”

“The Invisible Gorilla” explains in easy-to-understand terms how our brains make mistakes. Sometimes, the gray matter doesn’t notice what’s right in front of it. Sometimes, it confidently conjures up memories of people who weren’t at an event we recall. Sometimes, it seems to assure us that we know a lot about something when we don’t — and we make quick decisions based on our “gut” reaction.

Here is a book review by Tom Vanderbilt via

"...I clicked open one of those noxious-but-irresistible forwarded emails ("You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!"). The task was simple--count the number of passes in a tight cluster of basketball players--but the ensuing result was astonishing: As I dutifully (and correctly) tracked the number of passes made, a guy in a gorilla suit had strolled into the center, beat his chest, and sauntered off. But I never saw the gorilla. And I was hardly alone.

The video, which went on to become a global viral sensation, brought "inattentional blindness"--a once comparatively obscure interest of cognitive psychologists--into striking relief. Here was a dramatic reminder that looking is not necessarily seeing, that “paying” attention to one thing might come at the cost of missing another altogether....

The Invisible Gorilla uses that ersatz primate as a departure point (and overarching metaphor) for exploring the myriad of other illusions, perceptual or otherwise, that we encounter in everyday life--and our often complete lack of awareness as we do so. These "gorillas" are lurking everywhere--from the (often false) memories we think we have to the futures we think we can anticipate to the cause-and-effect chains we feel must exist. Writing with authority, clarity, and a healthy dose of skepticism, Simons and Chabris explore why these illusions persist--and, indeed, seem to multiply in the modern world--and how we might work to avoid them. Alas, there are no easy solutions--doing crosswords to stave off cognitive decline in one’s dotage may simply make you better at doing crosswords. But looking for those "gorillas in our midst" is as rewarding as actually finding them..."

Basically, on the road, motorcycles/scooters are the "Invisible Gorilla in the Room". People just don't see us because they are not programmed too.

I believe through training via the DMV and schools, that this can change. People don’t think about bikes, or two-wheelers riding on the highways with them. They need to educated otherwise. However, this means changing Americans existing traffic mindset.

A problem with American culture is the old, “Might makes Right” mindset. I have seen this demonstrated daily on the highways. I can’t count the number of times trucks and larger cars and SUVs have forced me off the road or forced their way ahead of me. I have had a few very crazy people look right at me on my scooter and come over anyway. Despite my protests. EVIL FOKKERS!

People need to be educated that the roads are for everyone, no matter what they are traveling on or in. Awareness is key. As a scooter rider, my awareness has increased immensely, you betcha.

We need to implement something like "Accident Awareness Events" This might be an education program that visits schools, malls and various events and settings. Make it fun and inviting.

Using a specially designed isolation booth, we can recreate possible accident scenarios. This might be a way of reaching out to people when they are open and unguarded. There are already various simulations available via the internet.

OF course LAWS! would be nice. Possibly taking 2-wheel involved accidents seriously, instead of saying, 'Well, they knew the risks, so I guess that's what they deserved."

Until all this occurs, ride safe! Because the only one watching out for you, is YOU!

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